David Dean Bottrell is an actor and writer to keep your eye on! He is best known for his breakout role in David E. Kelley's "Boston Legal," playing the wonderfully psychotic "Lincoln Meyer." As a result of this success, David has re-joined David E. Kelley on the new NBC series "Harry's Law." David's first episode airs Wednesday, October 19 at 9pm on NBC. David's other television credits include appearances on "Castle," "Criminal Minds," "iCarly," "JAG," "Head of the Class," "Caroline in the City," "Dharma and Greg," and a recurring role on NBC's "Days of Our Lives."
For film, David directed and wrote the award-winning short "Available Men," which screened at more than 130 film festivals internationally. His other screenwriting credits include scripts for studios such as MTV Films, Paramount Pictures and Disney Feature Animation, as well as the co-writer of Fox Searchlight’s 2001 mega-hit film "Kingdom Come," starring LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett Smith and Loretta Devine.
As a writer, David writes regularly for Metrosource Magazine, where his comedic POV column appears each month and for the Huffington Post, where he blogs about his experiences in the entertainment industry. Additionally, David has his own popular industry Web site, Parts and Labor, a serio-comic look at being oddly middle class in Hollywood.
Theatrically, David has been seen in productions at NYC's Second Stage, The Public Theatre, Manhattan Punch Line, and LaMama. He has performed at such regional theatres as New Haven's Long Warf and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Most recently, David was an original cast member of the long-running hit comedy revue "Streep Tease" at the bang Theatre in Los Angeles where he performed the entire plot of "Out of Africa" in six minutes flat! David has also appeared at the Colony Theatre in 2001 in Wayne Liebman's "Better Angels" and will return this season to direct the stage adaptation of Graham Greene's "Travels With My Aunt."
David will also reprise his sold-out one-man show "David Dean Bottrell makes Love" from November 16-December 15 at Rogue Machine Theatre (playing Wednesday/Thursday nights at 8pm). The Rogue Machine Theatre is located at 5041 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019, 323-930-0747. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/performer? I was inspired to become an actor because I fell in love with somebody who was in the drama club in high school, named Valryn Warren. I thought "Valryn" was the most beautiful name I had ever heard in my life. I was madly in love with her and wanted to meet her and couldn't think of any other way to do so, except audition for a play. I got into the drama club and then kept acting in plays just because I wanted to be close to her, but eventually she moved on from the drama club and I stayed in it.
2. Who's the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Robert Duvall and Peter O'Toole. I think they are possibly the best actors I've ever seen in my life.
3. How did you come up with title and concept for your one man show "David Dean Bottrell makes Love" and what made you decide to bring it back? For the last few years I've been doing these spoken word shows around Los Angeles (for those of you who don't know what spoken word is, these are shows where 4-6 writers read first person stories in front of an audience). I did one show last December (2010) where I read a story about my ex and it was very popular. It got a lot of laughs and as I was driving home that night I thought, "Wow, I wonder if there is a little more to this story than what I just read." I kept thinking about it and began to wonder if I could do an entire evening of love stories. I started writing down stories about every major experience I'd had with love since the age of 5 and from that came "David Dean Bottrell makes Love." Then my friend Jim Fall (who directed "Trick") came on as director and really helped me shape the show. The whole show came together really quickly...from the day I decided to do it to the first performance was only six weeks. I performed it at the Comedy Central Stage here in Los Angeles and it was a big hit. The first show sold-out in less than 24 hours, so we then moved it to another theatre and over the course of the summer we did about 8 shows and all of them sold-out. It was so exciting. And it was all by word of mouth. After the run this past summer, I had a few prior commitments to fulfill and now that those are done, we are bringing the show back for 8 performances only from November 16-December 15 at Rogue Machine Theatre (playing Wednesday/Thursday nights at 8pm). The Rogue Machine Theatre is located at 5041 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019, 323-930-0747.
The show is basically 70 minutes of me standing on stage telling all these different love stories. Some of them are hilarious dating stories, some are stories about falling in love with the wrong person, some of them are about disastrous sexual exploits, and some of them are a little more poignant such as a story about my dad who is a very unemotional, stern, kind of guy and a story about my first girlfriend. There is really something there for everyone. The best part about the show is when I hear a really huge laugh coming from the audience and I know it's not because I'm so fabulous and so funny, but because they related to something I just said. The other wonderful part about doing this show is what happens after when people come up to me and want to tell me a story that has happened to them.
There's something really therapeutic about making people laugh. Plus, nobody wants to talk about their embarrassments in life or what went wrong, so I think that's why there are comedians. We are there to help people get passed the embarrassments by talking it about it for them and that allows them to move on.
4. What excites you most about this upcoming run of the show and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? My goal is always the same. I hope to make them laugh and glad they came to my show. I'm not a stand-up comedian, I'm a story teller, so the best thing I can do is tell a story that is honest and has some kind of bigger truth in it. If I can do that, then I feel I've done a good job.
5. What's your favorite part of the creative process in writing a show and in the rehearsal/preview period in a show? My favorite part of writing a show is the mystery of it because truthfully, when you sit down to write something, you don't know how it's going to turn out. To me, writing, in it's best form, is like going on some expedition to a place you've never gone on before and hopefully at the end of it, you'll find something from it that's worth sharing with people. Over the years, I've come to trust that experience.
My favorite part of the rehearsal process is the collaborative part of it. I would never imagine doing a show like "David Dean Bottrell makes Love" without a director who can stand outside and say "Hey David, that's not so funny or "Hey David, you've already said that, it feels repetitive." In the case of Jim Fall, he was great about saying, "I think you should do the stories in this order. I think you should start with this story and end with that one." He was great about giving me some kind of guidance that I would have never been able to come up with on my own.
5a. Where is your favorite place to write and rehearse on your own? My favorite place to write is actually in my office. I learned a long time ago that if I take my laptop out to a restaurant or coffee shop, I'm going to run into 10 people I know and very little is going to happen in terms of writing. I've gotten very good about setting aside time to write in my office and have sort of trained myself to sit down, take a deep breath, and begin. I have a sign taped to my wall with a quote from Billy Wilder (who directed "Some Like It Hot"), "The muse needs to know where to find you." I've come to actually really love this time to myself.
In terms of rehearsing, I can't rehearse at home. It's too filled with distractions. I have to find a neutral space if I want to get any work done.
6. What have you learned about yourself from being an actor/writer? That's a really good question...a really good one! I think I've learned I can always grow. One of the biggest lessons the business has taught me is that other people actually have good ideas too. Other people are worth listening to. Sometimes when I have one idea and a director or producer has an opposing idea, that can often lead to a third idea; or some combination of what we both wanted that winds up being a brilliant choice.
I also think some people are born to do this. I definitely feel I was born to entertain (and hopefully inspire people a little bit). I think that comes out of my childhood because I grew up in a household that didn't have any money and the issue at home was always, "Are we going to be able to afford it this month?" I remember feeling like my job was to take everybody's mind off of that somehow. What I didn't realize as a kid was that that thing I had done naturally, which was to tell stories, was actually a profession and it was called being a writer or a performer and people did this for a living and there was a whole industry of people who did this. I thought about some other possible things I could have done with my life, but it really feels like this is what I am supposed to be doing. I often think, "Wow, I am so lucky to be able to make my living doing this, being a professional performer and writer." It just amazes me!
7. How did you decide to start your mentoring program for young writers and what do you get from doing the program? The program was actually started by a film festival out here in Los Angeles called "Outfest" (the Gay and Lesbian Festival) and I was one of the founding members of their screenwriting lab. We mentored young gay and lesbian writers. I've done it about 7 times now over the years. I always love it because I get to work with really talented, really funny, really inventive young writers who haven't been beaten up yet by the studios. It's nice to focus on the craft of writing instead of getting caught up in talking about how to finance it or get distribution or which movie star you can attach.
8. I've read your blog, "Parts and Labor," and I have to say there were a few entries I really identified with. I find your writing very funny and relatable. What do you enjoy most about writing your blog? I started writing it as a result of the writer's strike out here in 2007. I found myself walking the picket lines with all these other writers. 99% of whom I had never seen before. I just remember being shocked by the sheer number of people on the street carrying picket signs. I wondered, "Who are these people?" Here we all are, in the same business, and yet so many of us haven't met. I often feel a little isolated and that no one really knows who I am, and that I'm barely getting by here, and I began to think, "How many of these people feel the same exact way?" The reality is, the media attention seems to go to the American Idol kids (people who are just breaking into the scene) or to the Brad and Angelina's of the world who seem to live in a whole other dimension because of their fame. I thought no one ever really talks about all of those people who live and work in between those two extremes...the ones who have homes and lives and kids and mortgages. The ones who are writing for a TV show or have been character actors forever or the cinematographers or the grips; the ones who really make up most of the industry. So, I started writing about that middle class and I didn't want to write it in some sort of snarky, jealous kind of way. I wanted to really talk about what it's like to do this for a living and also try to have some kind of life at the same time. Each week, I would just base my posting on some experience I had (or was having) in the industry and just try to write about it from a first person, right there in the trenches, viewpoint. I also wanted to write the stories that were funny, but also human and honest. Most people don't go into this field to get famous, most go into it because they are drawn into it by a desire to create something and be part of something good. It's hard to keep that goal insight sometimes.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I've ever received was from my acting teacher, Bill Esper. He said "The problem with the entertainment industry is 75% of the people who are trying to be in it are not qualified to be in it, so therefore, the people who can actually recognize your talent and give you a job, have to surround themselves with layers and layers of secretaries and assistants whose job it is to protect them from all those people who have a little more than a dream to be in show business. If they didn't protect themselves, they'd never get any work done. So your only hope is to figure out what it is that you can do and get good at it. Then just hand in there and steadily get better at it. Eventually, they are going to be looking for somebody who does the thing that you specifically do. If you wait around long enough, you will be the logical choice." That has actually proven true in my life. I teach an acting class out here in Los Angeles and this is one of the things I tell my students...figure out what it is that you uniquely do. Some actors are very good at comedy. Others are good at heavy dramatic roles. Some are sketch comedians. I tell them, figure out what you are good at and then let the industry know, "this is what I do." Let them know what to call you for and eventually they will.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Hahaha...I think I would dream about Johnny Depp. I don't mean that in any kind of romantic or erotic kind of way. I think he's an extraordinary artist and I guess because he is also from Kentucky as I am, that sort of adds to my admiration for him. I think my dream would be that I was starring in something with him and that when I woke up, the dream had actually come true. I love the kind of projects that he is drawn to. They are always so outside the box. I just can't think of any other actor who's had a career like his. I just think he's extraordinary!
11. Favorite way to stay in shape? Anxiety...hahaha. Anxiety keeps my weight down for sure.
12. Favorite way to spend your day off? On the sofa.
13. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. I'll leave it at that.
14. Favorite website? That's a good question. Cnn.com is probably the one I go to the most.
15. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman. I always wanted to go for a ride in her invisible jet.
16. Looking back, what was the best part about being on "Boston Legal" and working with David E. Kelley? The best part about that was David took a huge chance on me. I had been out of acting for 13 or 14 years when I was called in for "Boston Legal," and God Bless Him, he wrote this incredible role and kept on that show for quite a while. It gave me a remarkable opportunity to work with these A-List actors. I remember every time I would get a new script, I would be floored by how challenging and hilarious the material was. Plus I got to do this great material with such actors like James Spader, Candice Bergen, William Shatner, Julie Bowen, and Delta Burke. Sometimes I would read the script and be so intimidated, because it was so smart and well crafted. Then I'd think to myself, "Okay David, you've gotta pull yourself together and bring your A-game. You've got to stand-up and act like you really belong there!" It was an amazing experience in accepting this wonderful gift; this role that David E. Kelley created, and getting to play ball with so many wonderful players. It was the best experience you could possibly have in show business in that everybody was happy: the show's creator was happy, the network was happy, the show was fantastic, and the other actors and I got along great. "Lincoln" was such a quirkly original character. I was proud that even though David Kelley was writing these incredible scenes for "Lincoln" each week, there was also something I was bringing that was uniquely my own. I felt honored to do it.
I do just want to add, speaking of Mr. Kelley, he very graciously just wrote me a role on his new show "Harry's Law." It's a beautiful character and very different from what I did on "Boston Legal." We just shot it and it airs Wednesday, October 19, at 9pm on NBC.
17. That's great! Do you mind answering a question about it? David: Sure. What's it's like to work with David E. Kelley again? Is this a recurring role? For somebody as brilliant as David Kelley is, he's surprisingly modest and shy. He's also a stickler when it comes to saying the lines as written - which he should be. Right now, the character I'm playing on "Harry's Law" is just in the one episode, but I was honored to do it and if David wants to call me back to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat. This part also gave me the chance to work with Kathy Bates, whom I've admired for so many years! I got to do three really lovely scenes with her. She was so gracious and funny and I had a great time!
18. What do you like about working on television that you maybe don't get from working in theatre or vice versa? They are such completely different beasts. Working on TV, there is very little time to rehearse, and that's just a reality of the production schedule. In theatre, it's so luxurious, and geared toward the artist. You have weeks to make decisions and get to know your character and learn your lines and make all those deicions in a really delicate and intricate way. In TV, it's just the opposite. If you rehearse once before you shoot, that's a lot. Usually you shoot it with an actor you never met before, you're on a set you've never seen before, wearing a costume you've never had on your back before. So, it's all about being present and embracing all that newness and thinking of it as a good thing. The performance literally gets shaped take by take and it's a very unique way of working, but I have to say, once you get used to that and once you realize how it works on television, it's really quite a lot of fun, particularly when you are working with other people who are good and you can put your trust in. You just jump in and play that scene. The other difference is that in television, your performance is shaped by the editor. Your goal each time they call action is to give that editor something good to work with.